|"The Fish Journal"
Issaquah Press, Published December 31, 2009
By Dallas Cross
youth there were two dates
of special significance--the opening day of fishing and the opening
day of hunting. For fishing the state rules were succinctly described
on a couple of pages. There was the usual opening day for stream
fishing; the main rivers and large lakes were open all year. Special
dates were set to fish for salt water fish returning to the streams.
The dates did not change once they were announced. All in all, it
was quite simple, with catch limits and fishing gear remaining the
same throughout the season.
Then, most of the fish and
personnel employed by the state were in the field, raising fish and
birds, creating habitat and enforcing the regulations. My own summer
job was to plant and maintain refuges for upland game. A small
administrative staff supported the field and printed the regulations.
So when you found time to go fishing
you could plan far ahead. Everyone knew the rules and the only
decision was where to go and whether the weather and fishing would be
good. But good times they were a changing.
During fish story times, my
almost always broach the subject of how to abide by regulations.
Being legal is now complicated, because the regulations are
frequently changed by the Washington Department of Fish andWildlife.
More than often friends
state that they
cannot plan long term trips to fish, crab or clam because of the
numerous openings, closings and limit modifications made by the
department. Some have confided that the fishing rules are so
complicated that they are fearful of breaking one and so they don't
bother to plan an outing. Department officials acknowledge this
confusion by regularly issuing cautions to check their internet site
for emergency rule changes before fishing.
To get a measure of this
subscribed to the email service of the department where among general
announcements for planning, and of the capture of a few poachers,
they list the rule changes and corrections.
This is what I observed
during twelve months: There were 28 errors reported in the official
fishing rules pamphlet issued at the beginning of the year. One
correction of a limit for steelhead as actually being one instead of
two, brought up the mental image of a stream side citation and a
lawyer pointing out the error in court with this public mea culpa
being published asa consequence.
numerous. Changes were made for allowed fishing gear types, seasonal
and regional openings and closures, catch limits and legal size
modifications. There were 13 changes for saltwater fish (mostly
sturgeon), 18 changes for salmon and steelhead, 7 changes for
freshwater fish and 17 changes for shellfish (mostly crab and
clams)--a total of 55 changes. This averages slightly more than one
rule change per week.
One of the more interesting
the issuance of a two-day a week closure for pink salmon sport
fishing on the Puyallup River. It seems there was a building
conflict between American Indians and sportsmen over fishing
territory. Evidently the department decided to cool things down
before a minor civil uprising escalated.
Another rule change was to
use of two rods while fishing in fresh water. Previously this was a
violation but now you may prepay the penalty by purchasing a second
rod stamp for an additional $24.50.
State officials have
department to cut back its budget and this has taken a toll on the
hatchery workers and enforcement agents. I have been told the
department has cut field personnel proportionally more than for
administrative and research staff. The recent emphasis for the
public to report poachers on a hotline probably reflects an increasing
deficit in field enforcement personnel.
While acknowledging the
restrictions in these financial times, I reflect on the many millions
of federal dollars collected from excise taxes on fishing and
recreational goods and equipment in Washington state. We don't see
these taxes at the retail level but they are levied and go to the
federal treasury. Every year millions are returned to Washington,
some as grants but a large portion is deposited into the state
general fund, neither earmarked for conservation nor budgeted in
support of recreation.
So to fish with the
pretend there will be a game warden around, you should only plan day
to day, engage a wildlife lawyer to interpret regulations, hire a
Sherpa bearer to
carry them, and use a Blackberry communication device to get the
latest changes while on the way to the river.
Because the expense for this
recreationally related, I'm sure it will now be subject to the
federal excise tax which will go to the state's general fund helping
to pay for its current financial shortfall in social services.